We landed at Hobart after a comfortable 1 hour flight with Virgin Australia. (There was a group of young sportsmen at our gate in Melbourne and I asked David who they were. A quick Google search revealed that they were the Tasmanian Tigers — a cricket team who were returning from a match in Perth where they scored 63 all out. Now, even I know that’s not a good thing! They did seem to be hiding in the corner and no-one was troubling them for an autograph.) David’s cousin Diane & her husband, Leigh were there to greet us. Big hugs all round! We collected the luggage and drove over the impressive Tasman Bridge, through Hobart and to their home. It felt lovely to have finally arrived after all the months of planning to meet up with them again. We had a supper time drink along with a selection of biscuits and cake — Tim Tams, Lamingtons and Anzac biscuits.
Tuesday morning was taken up with washing and hanging out said washing before we set of to Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary just a short drive from Diane’s house. It’s a wonderful place and the staff there do some great work not only looking after the animals but nursing them back to health and releasing them if appropriate. We saw Tasmanian Devils, Kangaroos (some with joeys), Tawny Frogmouth Owls, Galahs, Koalas, Judy the Wombat and Randall, the 3-legged Echidna who was too adorable for words. We had a pleasant stroll around, feeding the kangaroos with the food we’d been given, then stopped for lunch before our appointment with Judy the wombat. We were taken to a small enclosure and the keeper brought her over while I carried her enrichment treat — a pumpkin full of grass. Well, it was Hallowe’en! She wandered around us, taking food from our hands and letting us stroke her back. Wombats have a thick plate of cartilage which is their main defence. Wombats dig complex tunnels and, as they carry their young in pouches, the pouch opening is rear-facing so that the young don’t get covered in earth. A guided tour had just started as we said goodbye to Judy, so we tagged along so that we could stroke a koala and see the Tasmanian Devil being fed. Tasmanian Devils get a bad press. They aren’t the scary creatures you might imagine them to be but shy, nervous scavengers who regularly dine on roadkill. They eat everything, even bone. Unfortunately, as their dinner is in the road, they too are vulnerable to becoming… roadkill. As a species, they are also suffering from a contagious facial tumour and steps are being taken to isolate healthy groups in order to help them to survive. A great day. I bought myself a wombat badge and a cuddly echidna to remind me of Judy and Randall.
In the evening we went to a lovely Italian restaurant where I was introduced to sparkling Shiraz. I don’t drink red wine but this was a revelation and quite delicious. Instead of driving straight home, Leigh took us to a viewpoint so that we could see Hobart lit up against the dark starry sky — wow!
Wednesday — we weren’t sure until we set off whether or not we’d be able to see anything from kunanyi/Mt Wellington, but, as we drove away from the house we could see just a bit of cloud over the summit. It was quite a drive up Mt Wellington, through the bush and all the eucalypts but my word, was it worth it. There’s a viewing point that has windows with landmarks to show you the names of the places you can see. Leigh pointed out to the sea and said, “Next stop Antarctica.” Sobering thought.
We drove back down (why is it the return journey never takes as long as the journey to anywhere?) and went straight to MONA (Museum of Modern and Old Art) and had a delicious lunch before going down in the lift to the galleries. The visiting exhibition at the moment is ‘Everything’. We wore O devices — a bit like a smartphone that gave us information and some audio about what we could see. There was so very much to see! We exited ‘Everything’ for a visit to the library area and a welcome comfort break but while I was in the loo the alarm started to sound. Staff were very reassuring and guided the 4 of us and another woman outside where we stood and chatted for a while before exploring the chapel with its interesting stained glass windows made from x-ray films. Bizarre. After quite a while outside the all-clear was given and we were back inside. Unfortunately, MONA closes at 5pm so we had a bit of a rush to get through the rest of the exhibits in time. We just about made it and I got to see Sidney Nolan’s amazing artwork, ‘Snake’. It is enormous and made up of lots and lots of images. For the best view of it as a whole you have to go upstairs to the gallery.
Books just waiting to be written!
After a quick dash home we were out again for a meal at the Drunken Admiral down by the wharf. Another yummy meal where Diane and I shared 2 entrées instead of having mains which was a stroke of genius on Diane’s part.
On Thursday we set off for 4 nights touring the east coast after a quick detour to see the Tasman Bridge up close. When it was quite new an off-course ship ran into it one night. The ship sank and some cars were lost over the bridge. Several people lost their lives and it took a long time to repair the bridge.
We passed through stunning countryside on the way to Richmond, a little town that reminded me of the towns of New England we last visited in 1997.